locore (locore) wrote,

Sociopathy as the Far End of the Autism Spectrum

I'm in a bad mood this morning, and I think I'll indulge myself by considering the possibility that if you were to draw a line from the extremely autistic, through those with Asperger's syndrome, through the generally geeky, and then the normals, you'd eventually wind up among sociopaths.

One common NT behaviour is to make statements based entirely on their expected emotional impact, with no consideration whatsoever of their factual accuracy. Some go so far as to insist that a story is "true" to the extent that it triggers certain emotional reactions. Usually it's clear the term is used metaphorically, but not always. I broke off contact with a woman who wrote a first person fiction for publication in a new age magazine, intended to be published without any indication that it was fiction, and asked me to review it. She claimed to see nothing wrong with her behaviour; it may indeed have been completely normal and well known among contributors to such magazines. For her, the problem was my shock and anger - in fact, now that I think of it, she's the one who broke off contact with me. I've also left jobs when encountering particularly clear examples of management not caring about the truth value of their statements.

Where does "we all know it's inspiring fiction" end and "this person has no conscience" begin? "We" may all know the new company motto is inspiring fiction, the claimed results of some neo-shamanic practice never actually happened, and the repeated statements that some change is beneficial are just intended to reduce the negative impact. But there are always plenty of "they" who don't in fact know this - all the newbies, Aspies, etc. Now maybe it's not sociopathy, just common-or-garden oppression ("who cares about customers, new hires, and those pesky disabled folks anyway?") Is one only a sociopath if the victims include peers as well as outsiders? Is one only a sociopath if one benefits by more than simply making a living off undeclared fantasy, or keeping one's job as head of HR or facilities?

As an Aspie, I'm a bit tone deaf in this area. I know many NTs react postively to feel good statements with little or no factual content, and would feel lost and unloved without them. I can to some extent at least accomodate them, though it often bothers my conscience. And I've learned not to protest, except to my fellow geeks, when people in authority over me make obviously false statements, not even when they insist the statement is factual in response to direct questions. I'm not equipped to distinguish my first contact with the latest fad in positive statements from the next Enron - not until I've heard the same load of codswollop from multiple sources :-(

But that gets to my question - is a sociopath merely someone at the far end of the spectrum, who also can't distinguish, but for opposite reasons? They are very good at producing the feelings they desire (generally trust of them) and judge their statements and behaviour only by its effects (do I get what I want from it)? Is there any difference in kind from normal neurotypicals, or is it just a difference in degree?

This entry was originally posted at http://locore.dreamwidth.org/3690.html.
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